As someone who spends a lot of time in the central Oregon wilderness, I feel badly about what is going to descend on this holy place on or about August 21 for an event that will last two minutes. A full solar eclipse is a rare thing, granted. But what goes along with this one is much like the people who clog up the roads in Yellowstone Park taking pictures with their cell phone cameras of a bear cub fifty yards up a hill. “See that blondish-brown spot in this photo? That’s a bear cub!” (Yellowstone Park much of the time is a zoo, but it’s the people who are in cages.)
Mega traffic jams are predicted during the eclipse in Oregon. Liquor and weed sales are predicted to increase 20-40 percent during the time leading up the eclipse. (Oregonian 7/28/17: National Guard soldiers will deploy across Oregon during August’s eclipse) All these people from all over the place will descend on the high desert of central and eastern Oregon, get high and drunk and post an infinite number of photos and videos of a rare astronomical event. The only good thing about this is it will mean money for businesses in central Oregon that struggle to survive.
But shortly the hordes will leave, feeling they have witnessed something unique along with millions of other people, which makes it not so unique by the way. The herd mentality of this is typical of the front runners who come to this part of Oregon. Fly fishing only during the salmonfly hatch, when it doesn’t matter that you can’t cast a fly more than 15 feet. Rafting down the Deschutes with an outfitter whose camp raft is loaded with cases of Scotch and wine and coolers full of expensive steaks. Buying up property that you visit once or twice a year yet have no trespassing signs up all year around.
Thousands of unique things happen in the central Oregon high desert every day. To see them you don’t look at the sun, you look at the ground. There are thousands of tiny eco systems occupied by thousands of different insects, reptiles and plants that are all stitched together into a complex whole. Those will all be there the next time I am out there, after the front runners have left their mess and gotten in the way of scientists for whom this eclipse is a rare and useful opportunity.
I’ll catch the eclipse on You Tube.